The Muslim persecution of Christians in September made prominent appearances not just in the Islamic world, but also in the West—in America, Australia and Europe.
In the United States, in Columbus, Indiana, three churches were vandalized on the same night. The words most frequently sprayed were “Infidels!” and “Koran 3:151.” The verse from the Koran states, “We will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve [or “infidels”] for what they have associated with Allah [reference to Christian Trinity] of which He had not sent down [any] authority. And their refuge will be the Fire, and wretched is the residence of the wrongdoers.”
Father Doug Marcotte of Saint Bartholomew’s Catholic Church, one of those vandalized, said, “There’s a lot of bad stuff being done in the name of Allah and so when people see this happening in Columbus, whether that was truly the person’s intent or there’s something else going on, it makes people nervous. It makes people upset. It makes them scared.”
Meanwhile, in Australia, AAP reported that “Church-goers in Sydney’s west have been left shaken after a stranger shouted death threats from a car bearing the Islamic State flag. The car drove past Our Lady of Lebanon Church at Harris Park on Tuesday and witnesses claim it had a flag similar to those brandished by Islamic State jihadists hanging out the window.” A church official said the people in the car threatened to “kill the Christians” and slaughter their children: “They were strong words and people were scared of what they saw.” Witnesses saw a flag outside the window with the words, “There is only one god and Muhammad is the prophet.” And as happens frequently in Muslim-majority nations, police security was later dispatched to patrol the Harris Park church while hundreds partook of mass inside.
Another Christian woman of Iranian background recounted how she and her son are harassed on the Muslim-majority block where they live—and where she stands out for not wearing a hijab, the Islamic veil: “My son is being called everything. I get called all sorts of things. Infidel. Filthy Christians. They tell me I ought to be stoned to death. My son was beaten at the bus stop. He was called pig, dirty potato (Muslim slang for Danes), and that ‘you and your mother should die.”‘
Islamic dreams of conquering Europe were prevalent. A senior analyst in Spain warned that, because Islamists see the Iberian peninsula as being “under Spanish and Portuguese occupation,” greater risk of terrorism exists there than in other Western areas. Because Iberia—or, in Arabic, Al-Andalus—was under Islamic domination for centuries, many Muslims consider it part of the Islamic world, or Dar al-Islam, which needs to be reconquered, no less than Israel, also seen as occupied Islamic territory.
More pointedly, in the Islamic State [IS], in a lengthy message partially addressed to the “crusaders”—a reference to the West—some members declared, “We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women, by the permission of Allah.” Members of the IS also invoked a statement attributed to Muhammad, that Constantinople would be conquered before Rome—and it was, in 1453. The implication is that the Eternal City of Rome is next.
Around the same time, Rome responded by rejecting a motion to name a street after the late Oriana Fallaci, a veteran journalist who had once written that, “the Muslim world is attempting to conquer the West in the name of Islam.” In explaining their decision, local politicians described Fallaci’s writings as containing “religious hatred,” or “Islamophobia.”
In Canada, while 80 special Muslims went to the trouble of attending a Muslim rally on behalf of persecuted Christians, another rally, an extremist Al Quds Day Anti-Israel Hate Fest, drew approximately 6,000 participants.
The rest of September’s roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes (but is not limited to) the following accounts, listed by theme and country alphabetical order, not necessarily according to severity.
Muslim Attacks on Churches
East Jerusalem: A Christian church was attacked numerous times: On September 29, young Muslim men, with ties to a Palestinian militant group, wired shut the door of the Living Bread Church and sprayed a gaseous substance at those inside. An earlier gas attack had already occurred on September 17. Hours before the second attack, someone threw a rock through one of the windows of the church, and the day before that, Sunday, September 28, a Palestinian and others assaulted a church member as he was emptying trash into a dumpster outside the church. On Sept. 21, a Palestinian militant, without warning, ran up behind a church leader, Karen Dunham, and knocked her to the pavement: “This guy charged me as fast as he could,” she said. “He came up behind me and just slammed into my back, and I fell and I hit the ground. My face is bruised. There’s bruises on the side of my cheek, on my face, on my head, on my knee, cuts on my head, and my wrist was fractured.”
Egypt: A Christian priest in Egypt appealed to President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to intervene on behalf of yet another church being threatened by “religious extremists.” So far, local authorities have done nothing. Four years ago, the Coptic Church of St. Abram in Shubra al-Khaima received a permit to build an additional building. During those same four years, seven “thugs”—in the words of the report—have prevented it from being built. The “thugs” had mobilized local Muslims to threaten and demonstrate against the church. “The priest lamented that ‘after suffering many long years’ they finally managed to acquire the permit to build, but then the next obstacle presented itself in the person of the aforementioned seven ‘thugs’ who constantly harass, and incite Muslim mobs, against the church, whenever it tries to exercise its right to build the services building. Islamic law forbids the building of new churches or the renovation of existing churches.”
Iraq: Islamic State militants “completely destroyed” the ancient Green Church in Tikrit. They packed the church with explosives and detonated them – completely destroying the ancient church, which belonged to the Assyrian Church of the East. Almost from the time it was built in the seventh century, when Islam overran Iraq, the church had been attacked, ransacked, and destroyed by Muslim rulers and others, but was restored on the orders of Iraq’s late President Saddam Hussein in the 1990s.
Nigeria: Many more churches and a Christian university, Kulp Bible College, were forced to shut down as a result of the advances of the Islamic jihadi group, Boko Haram. In one instance, a pastor reported that “Boko Haram violence has been getting worse every day, and our members are fleeing the area by the thousands. Recent attacks in Borno and Adamawa states where our churches are located have seen Boko Haram take over the Army base. As a result, about 350 Christians have been killed.” Separately, in Kaduna state, where “Muslim Fulani assailants seem driven to rid the area of Christianity and use the land to graze their cattle,” according to church leaders, 46 Christians, including two pastors, were slaughtered in raids. According to an eyewitness,
Suddenly we heard sounds of gunshots around our village. The pastor was still in the pastorate when the Muslim Fulani gunmen forced their way onto the church premises. They cut him, his wife and a daughter with a machete, and then tied the hands and feet of the three of them before setting the house on fire. The three of them were burned to ashes in the living room of the pastorate. We only found the charred remains of the three of them the following morning…. The gunmen then came onto the church premises and began shooting. I heard them shouting at the top of their voices, saying they must obliterate any trace of Christianity in the town.
Although Muslim Fulani have historically had property disputes with Christian farmers, Christian leaders say attacks by the herdsmen constitute a war “by Islam to eliminate Christianity” in Nigeria.
Sudan: In the latest incident of a nearly two-year wave of church demolitions, closures and confiscations, security agents padlocked a 500-member church building, the Sudan Pentecostal Church in Khartoum. The church also houses the Khartoum Christian Center. “The church is concerned that the building might be sold by the government, which renders more than 500 worshippers to have no place for worship,” a source told the Morning Star News. The Islamist government appears to be seeking any pretext for closing churches, sources said. In this instance, the space for the church was originally designated as “office space.” But, as one source asked, “How do you close a church building that has been in operation for 20 years in the name of the church being meant for offices?” The church has a deed showing that it owns the building and property — a situation that raises the question of the government’s right to sell it. Earlier, on June 30 bulldozers demolished the Sudanese Church of Christ in the Thiba Al Hamyida area of North Khartoum as church members watched, while security personnel threatened to arrest them if they tried to block the bulldozers, church members said.
Syria: The Islamic State destroyed the Armenian Genocide Memorial Church in Der Zor, seen as the “Auschwitz” of the Armenian Genocide. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians perished in Der Zor and the surrounding desert during the genocide. In the summer of 1916 alone, more than 200,000 Armenians, mostly women and children, were massacred by Ottoman Turks. Armenia’s foreign minister issued a statement calling the church’s destruction a “horrible barbarity,” and referred to the Islamic State as a “disease” that “threatened civilized mankind.” The church was built in 1989-90 and consecrated a year later. A genocide memorial and a museum housing the remains of the victims of the genocide were also located in the church compound. Thousands of Armenians from Syria and neighboring countries gathered at the memorial every year on April 24 to commemorate the genocide.
Pakistani Rape and Dhimmitude
- Four young Muslims gang raped a 15-year-old Christian girl and filmed it. The girl’s father, although he was threatened against filing a complaint, went to police, who confirmed the existence of a video that corroborates the violence. The video will apparently be introduced as evidence against the youths. A lawyer, Mushtaq Gill, issued a statement that, “Many Christian girls continue to be victims of sexual assault by young Muslims, who go unpunished” and that, “in this case there is also a video, flaunted as a trophy.”
- Two Christian women were abducted, forced to convert to Islam and marry Muslim men. Lawyer Mushtaq Gill said, “A Christian girl, Sairish, forced to marry a Muslim in 2009, in her heart never abandoned the faith and continued to pray to Jesus Christ even after her marriage. After a few years she found the courage to rebel against the situation and run away…. Her life is now in danger because if she declares herself Christian, Muslims may accuse her of apostasy and the punishment would be death.” Each year, approximately 1,000 women in Pakistan are forced to convert to Islam and marry Muslim men. Whenever a case of this nature reaches the law courts, those women, under threat and blackmail, often declare that their conversion and marriage were decisions freely made, and the case is closed.
- Another Christian family fled their hometown, Lahore, to save their daughters from forced conversion to Islam. According to the Justice and Peace Commission, the two sisters, aged 12 and 8, were studying in public schools, where learning to recite the Koran is mandatory. Apparently, because the girls recited the shehada, the Islamic declaration of faith, “an Islamic cleric, the father of a student stated that these girls had become Muslims and thus needed to be taken from their Christian parents and entrusted to adult Muslims.” The parents pulled their daughters out of school, but then the headmaster and other Muslim teachers “warned the parents to send them back to school, offering the family financial aid regarding the school fees.” The parents quit their jobs and fled the region.
- Police arrested 15 Christians and booked 45 other members of the minority community under the blasphemy law for allegedly desecrating Muslim graves in a village in Punjab province. According to the AP, “The case was registered after a local cleric filed a complaint alleging that the Christians had desecrated over 400 Muslim graves to occupy the land in Chak village in Faisalabad, about 150 kilometres from Lahore.” Rights groups said it was a spurious charge meant to prevent the Christians from acquiring the land. In fact, the accusations were later proven false.
Dhimmitude: Islamic Discrimination Against Christianity
Egypt: Iman Sarofim, a 39-year-old Christian mother of five, returned home to her family after being kidnapped. Initially it was believed that she had voluntarily converted to Islam and fled her family to be with a Muslim man. The woman contacted the family from Suez, where she had been brought by the kidnapper. The return of the woman was celebrated by neighbors and relatives in the city of Gabal al-Tir. Her disappearance had been the cause of clashes between Copts and police, who believed the narrative that she had voluntarily left. In retaliation, police officers entered the homes of dozens of Coptic families and violently arrested dozens of Christians. Separately, Ehab Karam, a Coptic dentist, was killed after he was abducted by unknown persons, most likely for ransom. The kidnapping of Copts for ransom has evidently become a regular part of life in Egypt for Christians, particularly in Upper Egypt. Last February, for instance, police dismantled a crime network that for months had been organizing kidnappings, robberies and extortion against the local Coptic community. “Unfortunately,” said the Coptic Catholic Bishop of Assist, Kyrillos William, “the phenomenon continues and there are no signs of improvement. Police operations are episodic and ineffective, they are unable to solve the problem.”
Iraq: The Islamic State decreed that all schools in Mosul and the Nineveh Plain which bore Christian names, some since the 1700s, must be changed. Also, the teaching of the Syriac language and culture and Christian religious education has been abolished. Reports indicate that the Islamic State took these moves “in order to erase all traces of cultural and religious pluralism in the conquered areas and turn schools into propaganda tools of jihadist ideology among the new generations.”
Saudi Arabia: In the Eastern Province city of Khafji, “religious police,” or agents from the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, raided a house where at least 27 Christians, mostly expatriates from various Asian nationalities, were gathered. The Christians, including children, were accused of practicing Christianity in a house church, and were arrested and detained overnight. Authorities also confiscated musical instruments and copies of the Bible. The house had been placed under surveillance after a citizen reported that his Indian neighbor had converted his home into a Christian church. After witnessing a large number of individuals enter the home, officers raided the house. The only religion allowed to be practiced in public in Saudi Arabia is Islam. In the land of the prophet, no public places of worship for non-Muslims are permitted to exist.
Turkey: According to the Armenian magazine, Agos, many of the primary and secondary education books being used for the current school year still describe the Armenians and other Christian communities as enemy forces at the service of foreign powers, including Russia and England, after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. One eighth-grade history book tries to whitewash the Armenian genocide, which is portrayed as a “necessary deportation,” never as a massacre.
Uzbekistan: Security forces reportedly raided the home of Pastor Stanislav Kim in Chirchik, 20 miles northeast of Tashkent, the capital. They detained 11 teenagers and three adults, who had gathered there for a volleyball game, and questioned them for more than four hours before releasing them. Officials also searched the pastor’s home and confiscated a New Testament, a Bible, several other Christian books, more than 100 slides of hymns, as well as some computer equipment. Voice of the Martyrs, which says there are at least 65 unregistered congregations scattered throughout Uzbekistan, said in a statement, “Please pray that this pastor and his son will not face fines, but will soon be acquitted of any perceived wrongdoing. Ask God to strengthen each believer who was present during this unwarranted raid so that they will not give in to governmental intimidation and pressure, but instead be emboldened to serve our Lord faithfully.”
About this Series
The persecution of Christians in the Islamic world has become endemic. Accordingly, “Muslim Persecution of Christians” was developed to collate some—by no means all—of the instances of persecution that surface each month. It serves two purposes:
1) To document that which the mainstream media does not: the habitual, if not chronic, persecution of Christians.
2) To show that such persecution is not “random,” but systematic and interrelated—that it is rooted in a worldview inspired by Islamic Sharia.
Accordingly, whatever the anecdote of persecution, it typically fits under a specific theme, including hatred for churches and other Christian symbols; apostasy, blasphemy, and proselytism laws that criminalize and sometimes punish with death those who “offend” Islam; sexual abuse of Christian women; forced conversions to Islam; theft and plunder in lieu of jizya (financial tribute expected from non-Muslims); overall expectations for Christians to behave like cowed dhimmis, or third-class, “tolerated” citizens; and simple violence and murder. Sometimes it is a combination thereof.
Because these accounts of persecution span different ethnicities, languages, and locales—from Morocco in the West, to Indonesia in the East—it should be clear that one thing alone binds them: Islam—whether the strict application of Islamic Sharia law, or the supremacist culture born of it.
Raymond Ibrahim is a Middle East and Islam specialist and author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians (2013) and The Al Qaeda Reader (2007). His writings have appeared in a variety of media, including the Los Angeles Times, Washington Times, Jane’s Islamic Affairs Analyst, Middle East Quarterly, World Almanac of Islamism, and Chronicle of Higher Education; he has appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, C-SPAN, PBS, Reuters, Al-Jazeera, NPR, Blaze TV, and CBN. Ibrahim regularly speaks publicly, briefs governmental agencies, provides expert testimony for Islam-related lawsuits, and testifies before Congress. He is a Shillman Fellow, David Horowitz Freedom Center; a CBN News contributor; a Media Fellow, Hoover Institution (2013); and a Judith Friedman Rosen Writing Fellow, Middle East Forum . Ibrahim’s dual-background — born and raised in the U.S. by Coptic Egyptian parents born and raised in the Middle East — has provided him with unique advantages, from equal fluency in English and Arabic, to an equal understanding of the Western and Middle Eastern mindsets, positioning him to explain the latter to the former.